Thursday, 28 February 2019

Colliding Worlds-Choosing Names

Colliding Worlds: Choosing Names

One of my favourite things about writing is choosing names for my characters. In the real world--our part of it, anyway--we have a limited power in choosing our names. Most people I know bear a surname that descended from their parent(s) or which they adopted to match a new spouse.  The first and second names, if any, are generally bestowed by parents. Even in the matter of nicknames or diminutives, most people don't get much choice, because by the time they're old enough to make one the name is already well established. Parents and other name-givers tend to be a bit territorial about their children's names too. If you and your spouse have been calling your son Jonathan Jonathan for ten years it's a bit of a shock to hear friends calling him Jonno or Jay, or even Nath. If you chose your daughter's name, Rose because it couldn't be shortened, you mightn't be too pleased when her boyfriend refers to her as Roz, Ro, Zee or Rosh. 

So, there it is. Of course you can say you won't answer to any name but the one you like best, but it's still awkward to get other people to remember, especially if they don't want to.

Writers, though, can name characters as they please (unless editors change them...) In the Elydian Dawn series I had the fun of selecting names twice-over; once as myself, the author, and once as the Elysians themselves. As part of their break from their former lives, they chose new family names for themselves. Thus Marianne Arcadia had no idea what her parents' original surnames were. Nor did Edsen Balm or Jeremiah Rain. In choosing for my Elysians I first considered their probable cultural background, and then tried to think of names people willing to leave their old lives behind might favour. Thus came Rain, Balm (a herb name), Arcadia, (a classical name), Cliffside, Farsight, Causeway, Atlantis (a myth name), Moon,  Cornwall (a place name), Ocean and Shakespeare, Rush and Collier. All these names could have represented a vision, a hope, a memory or a philosophy.

So... if your name is Samantha and people persist in calling you Sammy, or if you're a Jamieson and get tired of being Jimbo, start writing right now. You mightn't have much power in this world, but you can have lots in your novel!

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Colliding Worlds--Ballet

I've never seen a ballet at the theatre, and only occasionally on TV. I never took a ballet lesson in my life. Nevertheless, I know a bit about it from a childhood spent reading, as well as other things, ballet and theatre books by authors such as Noel Streatfeild and Pamela Brown. I absorbed ballet terms and techniques along with directions on how to fire a gun and go fly-fishing (The Islanders), what you might add to bread (No Entry), how to mend a leaky boat (The Goodbye Island), ride a horse (multiple titles) and fly a falcon (Falconer's Lure). And so it went on.

For a while my cousins learned ballet, and I remember being shown how to stand in first, second and third positions. In fact, I can still do it!

This is the kind of situation that means I can write in books such as Just Like Emily about someone whose friend takes ballet lessons. I wouldn't be able to write a long book that centred on ballet, but I know enough... There's a lot to be said for cousins and childhood reading.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Plum Puddin'

Character Post 74

Plum Puddin' is a pony, a stout little gelding who pulls the cart Flora O'Leary drives to the market. Plum Puddin' was a bay, and a "good doer" meaning he was plump and shiny. He was generally a dour-tempered beast, but he gave Flora little trouble. Like any good Irish pony he knew a fairy woman when he saw one, and so he baulked when they met Peg o' the Sidhe on the road. Or maybe he was thinking of his stomach, because Peg had a gift for him.

‘See, the beast agrees,’ said the woman. She held out her hand to the pony.
‘What are you giving him?’ asked Flora sharply.
‘Nothing but an apple.’ The woman rolled her hand palm-up to show a slightly wizened fruit. Its sweet smell made Flora’s stomach twinge with hunger. The woman laughed like the tinkle of bells. ‘It’s nothing but an apple that grew on a mortal tree and was given to me by a lass named Apple Mary. See, the beast wants it.’
The pony gave her a nudge.
Flora shrugged. ‘Let him have it, if it came from Apple Mary. He’s a surly beast anyway, is Plum Puddin’.’
Puddin’ gave her a sly look under his forelock and crunched up the apple.
‘I’m guessing he won’t move a step from this place until I let you into the cart?’ suggested Flora.
The woman in green smiled and nodded. ‘You’d be guessing right.’
‘Up you go then,’ said Flora.
The woman set her foot on the step and next thing she was sitting in the cart. Flora stepped up with her long legs and settled herself beside her passenger. ‘Hup.’

The pony gave a nod and trotted on. 

Plum Puddin' certainly knew which side his bread was buttered on!
You can meet him, along with Flora and Peg, in The Leapling and the Horseshoe Nail.

Monday, 25 February 2019

Best or Opinion

Yesterday, I posted two versions of a photo on Facebook. One had a frame made from sampled colours from the photo itself and the other didn't. I asked for comments on which was better. I hoped for a consensus but no such luck! It seemed to me that illustrators/editors/artists and the like leaned to no frame and authors and reader leaned to frame. Some people explained their choices. There was no real leaning one way or the other so I still don't know.

The first two pictures below show the frame and no-frame options. The third one, which I didn't offer on FB, is what one illustrator suggested. I like that one for a display print, though it wouldn't work as well in a small booklet. So--any comments? Or should I just take the notion that there is no Best, just opinion?

Sunday, 24 February 2019

May's Plum Pudding

Object Post 63

A Christmas story was desired
For children's reading pleasure
It had to do with food as well
A season's favoured treasure
May's plum pudding came to mind
And how I love a little slice
No, I never boiled one
But you never have to ask me twice...
Have a little pudding now,
With custard, cream or brandy sauce?
What the heck will I be saying
But a hearty, YES, OF COURSE!

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Cathie Casey’s Ten Shilling Brooch

Object Post 162:

Cathie Casey’s
Ten Shilling Brooch
From Dolphin

Source: Father bought it for her
Significance: It was one of the things Dolphin saved from Bad Jack
Fate: Cathie would have kept it and possibly handed it on to her daughter
“Every lady should have her jewels,” said Father and he held out a little gold brooch in the shape of a flower. “This cost ten shillings,” said Father, “and I think I got a good bargain.”

When Cathie Casey’s father sold some timber in Hobart Town, he brought back gifts for the family. The ten shilling brooch was for Cathie. Mother said it was too good for a child, and should be locked away. The servant girl Dolphin also disapproved, saying what useful things the master could have got for the same money. However, Cathie loved the brooch and wore it often.
As Father said, “it has a chain and a pin as well as a catch at the back.”
Cathie was wearing the brooch when Bad Jack arrived. Mother and Father were away, and Cathie was in Dolphin’s care. Dolphin quickly removed Cathie’s brooch and dumped it in a crock of oatmeal. She also hid other valuables in ingenious ways, and cozened Bad Jack into swallowing syrup of figs with his stewed quinces… Cathie’s brooch was saved, and Father was so pleased with Dolphin’s ingenuity and loyalty that he promised her a gift. Dolphin, ever practical, asked for a cow!

Friday, 22 February 2019

Every Picture Tells a Story...

Have you heard the one about the first-timer who entered a contest and won? That was  the peculiar situation that happened when I decided to enter a few of the photo+poem creations I've made for the 2019 in Focus books in the photography section of the local flower and produce show.  I was nonplussed when I won two sections over other people who compete at National level. I can only assume none of the judges had ever encountered photos with built-in verse before! This is the "Tree" winner.
However... I wouldn't use the situation in a novel. No one would believe it.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Fountain Lamps

As anyone noting another of my blogs, 2019 in Focus, would know, I'm amusing myself by taking my camera out each day on my walks and writing a poem or so inspired by the photos. February's pieces all deal with things that feature the letter F. One of the photos for 20/02/19 was a big fountain-shaped clump of dry grass. I've noticed it before, but today I decided to photograph it. It came up well in the picture. Not all things I try to photograph do. While writing the verse, I remembered a fountain-shaped lamp of glowing filaments (fibre-optics?) my great aunt had in the 1970s... I found some pictures on Google search and there they were...
What has this to do with my books? Well, the grass fountain will end up in 2019 in Focus: February at the end of the month.

March is going to feature Memory Lane. That should be fun.

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

I love this...

I love this...
That's the best thing an editor can say to an author (except maybe... well...). Anyhow, when it's followed by fun (used correctly, naturally) and snappy dialogue and send you a contract... well!
And extra-specially-especially when it's a genre I've never even attempted before.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Sweetwood Tree

Oash and Sam’s
Sweetwood Tree
From Sam and the Sylvan

Source: It was a species that grew in the pixie forest
Significance: It was a catalyst in Sam’s meeting with Oash, who leveraged an existing custom to stretch the time they spent together
Now that she was there, she might at least have a look at that weird sweetwood tree.
Sam Silver, misfit and all around disaster area, had come over here to the fay homeland with Tab Merriweather, a halfling who was trying to do her a good turn. He left her to her own devices after explaining that the fruit she thought she could smell was actually a sweetwood tree. He told her a few more things, too, but Sam had a case of information overload.
Sam approached the tree with caution and raised her hand to brush the lowest branch. It was formed almost like bamboo, with nodules every few centimetres. It was smooth and certainly soft. She dug her thumbnail into the bark, finding it tough but yielding, somewhat like a green banana skin.
She broke off a branch to see if it tasted as good as Tab said.
Snap! The report wasn’t loud, but Sam jumped. The branch had broken off at a nodule, as neatly as if it had been cut. Beads of golden sap oozed forth, and Sam dabbed at one with her fingertip. It was sticky like nectar or very thin honey, and she touched it to her tongue.
She was about to have another go when someone interrupted her.
Greet you, maid!”
Sam jumped and turned to face the speaker. It was a woman of around twenty-two, wearing a tunic very much like the one Tab had conjured for Sam, save that hers had a wide sash. She was tall and rangy with a coltish grace and a tousled cap of curly warm-blonde hair. She smiled at Sam, her brown eyes narrowing like a lazy cat’s.

Oash wasn’t twenty-two and she wasn’t entirely female, either. She’d chosen to appear to Sam in that particular guise because she thought it would seem unthreatening. She also pretended she’d been just passing when in fact she’d been trailing Sam for a while. She explained to Sam that what Tab had said was true; if one broke the branch of a sweetwood tree, then one was obliged to use the branch to make a flute.
“I wasn’t planning to make a flute.”
 Surprise and a little disapproval phased over the girl’s face in a ripple.
Sam’s heart sank. She’d obviously transgressed. “I’m sorry. Am I supposed to?”
“You broke the branch and drank the gift, so it’s only proper to give back music.”
“I didn’t know that.” Tab had said you could make the wood into a flute, not that you had to.
“Come with me.” The woman looked at her steadily. Then she tucked her flute back in her sash and took the branch from Sam’s hands. She turned and walked rapidly through the trees, glancing over her shoulder and signalling for Sam to come too.

Sam stayed on with Oash while her flute cured and then while she sanded, polished and refined it. Secrets and truths came to light along with the flute and though it was a bumpy road for a while, eventually Sam and Oash, two misfits who loved music, set up household together. Of course, that sweetwood was always their sweetwood tree.

Sam and Oash weren't the only characters to have sweetwood flutes. Tab Merriweather had one and so did some of the treefolk. Music and sweet sap were just two useful attributes of the tree. The leaves yielded a sweet-smelling colourless oil that could be used to improve the texture and smell of salves. 

Monday, 18 February 2019

Alphabetically Speaking Again

A couple of days ago I mentioned naming a protagonist Xanthe in my quest to occupy he alphabet. It's rare for me to invent a single character with no family (whether by blood or by love) so twenty-year-old Xanthe Persimmon has parents named Rupert and Cordelia. She has elder siblings named Azure and Violet (girls) and Sage, Indigo, and Rouge (boys). Rupert had six elder sisters, the formidable Persimmon aunts and a powerful mother. None of their names have been given, but I immediately found myself wondering what they were. I'm pretty sure one of them is called Jonquil.

There's a waterfolk man named Julius (the males often have classical names) and a hob maid named Pennyroyal Cassidy, as well as her husband (unnamed as yet) and Xanthe's friend Janet Leith, the seaman Lore Mor Arlodh, his grandfather Mull and another young woman named Nell. Then there's Parsifal Brioche... quite a lot of new names to add to my collection considering the story itself is shy of 20,000 words. Not all these characters play large parts and indeed many of them are mentioned only briefly, but it goes to show the huge numbers of characters writers produce when bouncing about the alphabet. 

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Lore Mor Arlodh's Soothing Salve

Lore Mor Arlodh’s
Soothing Salve
From Xanthe and the Seaman

Source: Lore inherited the recipe from his grandsire, Mull, and added some refinements.

Next to the tray was a stoneware pot with a tightly-fitting lid.

When seaman Lore Mor Ardlodh rescued Xanthe Persimmon from the midsummer tide, he decided to keep her for a while. Her trip along the cliffs and the aftermath left her with superficial sore patches. Lore’s manners were not much like the courtfolk men’s Xanthe knew, but neither were they as bad as the reputation of his order of fay. He was at least approximately civilised in some ways. Therefore, he fed his unexpected guest well.
Having eaten a fine breakfast, or possible supper, Xanthe considered the stoneware pot, hoping for dessert.
She unscrewed the lid and looked at the contents with a wrinkled nose. It smelled of seaweed in the sun. She touched it with her finger and sniffed it.
“Faugh! I’m not eating that.”

Lore informed her it was just as well. The stuff was an excellent soothing salve his grandsire had invented and supplied to a braefolk woman for her husband. The smell was pungent and Lore said it was necessary for the braeman to agree to use it. He’d inherited the recipe and added a few refinements that made it more pleasant to use.
…he flicked his fingers, summoning a small matching cruet. He scooped some of the paste into his palm and added some drops of colourless oil. The gooey substance turned translucent and the smell vanished to be replaced by something much more pleasant.
“Oil of sweetwood,” he told her, working the stuff with his fingers.
That wasn’t the only addition, but it was the only one he was prepared to name. The salve was so effective Xanthe wanted to have some to take home to her mother.  

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Alphabetically Speaking...

I've had a running list of my book titles and character names online and in my computer for years. I started it with the characters when I realised I had too many characters with the same first name. Mind you, not all characters end up with the names I gave them. Editors have a habit of changing names, or asking me to change them. I do it, but I don't like to, because since my too-many-Jennies discovery, I've taken considerable care in naming my characters.

Now and then, I rename a character on my own recognisance, usually because my first choice doesn't seem to suit or because it's too close to someone else's name. Recent changes were Cari to Nanette and Colin to Henry--both done when I realised there were too many characters with the initial C.

Along with this, I have an ambition to have book titles for every letter. I almost do--there's even X and the Pony and Zoo-Thology, but I don't have any others for X or Z and none at all for Q. I have precious few characters with Q-names or U/X/V/Z names either. I popped a Valentine in I Promise last year, and I have a couple of Quinns and a Quentin. I've just finished a book with a character named Xanthe. It's not that there aren't names beginning with these initials, but many of them are culturally incorrect for the books I write, or they're difficult to pronounce, and from the wrong era or just plain ugly. I keep stubbing my toe on Queenie. I may use that one day, but it has to be the right character... wish me luck!

Friday, 15 February 2019


A while ago, I mentioned seamen as a branch of the fay in one of my series. They were unusual in that other fay were scared of them. So... I just wrote one into a story to see what they are like...

Thursday, 14 February 2019


Gorse is a major symbol in the Garlands of Thorn and May series, where it is generally termed whin or furze. It also pops up from time to time in the Fairy in the Bed series. For my work in progress, though, my protagonist Xanthe has a close and painful encounter with the plant. I wrote about the prickles and then stopped to think... does gorse have prickles? Roses have prickles (not thorns, botanically speaking) but what about gorse? I looked it up. It has spines. So that's official. Next time you encounter this pretty, perfumed but inhospitable shrub, take comfort in the thought it cannot prickle you. It can only spine you. Oh. wait... 

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

First Line Last Line X and the Pony

X and the Pony 
First Line: 
Hello and welcome to X and the Pony, an anthology from Prints Charming Books. 

X and the Pony 
Last Line:
And hey, just for fun, let’s add X AND THE PONY! 

Tuesday, 12 February 2019


Whoops words are words that give writers trouble.

It will save you time and trouble later.

Monday, 11 February 2019



            Our family believes in volunteering.


"We'll tell them Volunteers Begin at Home!"           

Sunday, 10 February 2019

First Line Last Line Under the Waterfall

It's dark, and I hear the water lapping around me, pressing on my shoulders like liquid hands. 

And when I woke I rearranged my song.

Saturday, 9 February 2019


'Creative imaging can be a very useful technique,' says Old Chook.

Five were journeying Celadon, but only two came home.

Friday, 8 February 2019


Tabor Merriweather lay in the grass of the alpen-meadow.

They were forevers.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

First Line Last Line Replay

This time round, I am a human girl and Harry is a dog. 

And the music has always played for us and the loving cup's still brimming… so maybe we'll be in Replay mode until the end of time

Wednesday, 6 February 2019


Linda checked the pick-up listed on her screen for a second time and frowned.

You always do.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019


Ocean babies in the deeps
Waves are rocking them to sleep

Listen as the deep sea sighs
That's the ocean's lullaby

Monday, 4 February 2019


"Everyone loves a rescue, so long as it's successful."

"It's easy to guess when there's a heymouse climbing up your leg."

Sunday, 3 February 2019


FIRST LINE: The Mares of Merryland Chase

On her ninth birthday, Smiley Sunshine South found a secret world.

LAST LINE: 'That sounds like a plan!’

Saturday, 2 February 2019


"I don't know if my mother will let me."

"What do you think?" she said.


The Kingdom of Mirryam lay in a valley, which was bordered by the Rim Range Mountains


'Maybe,' said the king, 'but Jedket's run wild for much longer than Lilly, and it seems to have done him no harm.'

Friday, 1 February 2019

2019 in Focus: January

2019 in Focus: January
A5 size

A4 size
Every day in January I went out for a walk with my tablet camera and took photos. I chose one or more to represent that day and wrote some accompanying verse. Each photo and verse was created on the stated day.

Despite the title, the photos are not all in focus, but when I chose a fuzzy one it was for a good reason.

January was full of early mornings, dogs, river, sky, sunshine and trees. I made some of the photos into triptychs or collages. A few of them have been digitally altered to remove something ugly and intrusive or to close the gap between subjects. This was done in Paint. The colour, brightness and contrast are left natural and I didn’t use any effects. The coloured frames and text were mostly done using sampled colour from the photos.

The only clearly identifiable human subject gave her permission for her image to be used.

This is a private publication, done just for fun. I'm hoping to do a book for each month of 2019. Because this is the first one, I have done test copies in A5 and also in A4. I'll probably just do one size for February, choosing the one that turns out best. The two covers on the left are the two different sizes. Which cover do you prefer?